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Sketch Book, Vol. 1

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Album Review

The Chills' maestro had been threatening to release his unrefined home demos for years. Phillipps set down over 200 songs and other ideas at home from 1988 to 1995, but only managed to get out 40 or so on the previous three Chills' LPs (Submarine Bells, Soft Bomb, and Sunburnt). Sifting through the remainder, the respected New Zealand singer/songwriter has fabricated a rather complete-sounding, thematic LP in contrast to the warning of the title — one that's bound to be his most well-regarded release among purist underground fans since the similar lush, tropical rainforest melancholy of 1986's singles compilation, Kaleidoscope World. It's too bad Phillipps didn't own something better than a four-track to set down this bursting, unreleased crop. There are plenty of beautiful moods you'd like to see explored with the sonic clarity of his best '80s work. But lacking that, the trusty Tascam Porta 05 is a fountain of immediacy that once again lays open the haunting spectra of cobwebs in Phillipps' menaced mind, the forlorn, sympathetic war of feelings in his generous "haght" ("heart" in a New Zealand accent). Even apart from the lyrics, Sketch Book's luxuriant downer-throb, in oozing, bottom-end, dripping tracks just breeds kindly brooding. It's all unearthly synths, morosely grand piano, soft machine rhythms, and the lattice of subconscious empathy washing over Phillipps like a morning shower after the dark night of the soul. And he's not depressed, nor depressing. When taking on a portentous social issue in "No More Tigers," he takes a bewildered, disbelieving, mocking tone, instead of the incensed one he really feels. And the sprightly, fresh-scented lament of "February" and the sexual come-on of "Bad Dancer" are seductive, not joyless. This well placates those who grieved Phillipps' mostly inactive last eight years.


Genre: Rock

Years Active: '90s, '00s

The Chills' frontman Martin Phillipps (vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion) has written more than 500 songs. However, in the '80s and '90s none of them managed to corral listeners in the U.S. and England except for a devout cult. Nevertheless, Phillipps is one of the world's most influential indie pop songwriters, accumulating an acclaimed body of work that stretches back to the New Zealand punk scene of the late '70s. Born in Dunedin, New Zealand, Phillipps discovered punk rock in 1978 at the...
Full bio
Sketch Book, Vol. 1, Martin Phillipps
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  • 13,99 €
  • Genres: Rock, Music
  • Released: 1998

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